Winning matters most
The Stormers find themselves back atop the log after a deserved win against the Waratahs.
They had a very good first half, but the weather hampered their second half display and prevented them from scoring four tries. But if the Stormers keep winning, a lack of bonus points isn’t going to hurt them.
At times, the Stormers’ attack hasn’t been what they would have liked it to be. They have a tremendous backline, but at the end of the day, it’s all about winning. I think it will take just one game for them to break free and from there on things will be easier.
The Stormers have a very big game this weekend. The Sharks are certainly not as structured, but are a mightily effective side with a host of good players. Patrick Lambie’s return will make a big difference to them and I believe the team that dominates the collisions will win the game.
The Sharks are a very physical side and build their game on generating momentum. Once they gain momentum, they become very dangerous and hard to stop. The Stormers will have to disrupt them.
No disrespect to the Stormers, but the Sharks have the superior scrum. The Stormers’ front row is always competitive but it’s at lineout time where the Stormers have the edge with the combination of Andries Bekker and Eben Etzebeth - who is in tremendous form.
Etzebeth is a great player; I’d really like to see him in the Springbok mix. I would start with him against England. He is a very good all-round player. He has a strong skill set and is a dominant, physical presence.
With Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha now out of the national picture, you have to look for a new lock pairing. Bekker’s experience and Etzebeth’s exuberance would prove a winning combination.
I would imagine Heyneke Meyer would be pretty close to having the match 22 he wants in his mind ahead of the first Test against England. He has watched many of the games and has had a lot of time to think about things.
As far as the loose trio goes, Heinrich Brussow will certainly start at openside, while Pierre Spies will be at No 8. Ever since he was appointed Bulls captain, his workrate has improved.
Ryan Kankowski has fallen off the radar, but purely because he hasn’t been playing. It has been a bit difficult for Kankowski, as Keegan Daniel has occupied the No 8 jersey as the Sharks’ leader.
The question mark is around who Heyneke goes with at blindside flank. Duane Vermuelen is a player he’s keen on, but I’m not sure if he will return in time for the June Tests. Willem Alberts is another option, but he hasn’t played a lot of rugby of late. While Josh Strauss is also in the mix as a hardworking, grafting player.
In truth, I wasn’t surprised that the Highlanders beat the Bulls last weekend. They are a very tough outfit to beat at home. The Bulls are coming to the end of their tour – which has been pretty successful - but I don’t see them beating the Chiefs this Friday.
The level of competition is so strong, that you will lose games along the way, but I expect the Chiefs to bounce back from their defeat against the Reds. I’d love to see the Bulls pull that game off, but I just can’t see them doing it.
The Reds have been boosted by the return of Quade Cooper, and with Will Genia at nine; I would tend to think Robbie Deans will keep that halfback combination for the June Tests.
Kurtley Beale - who has slotted in at flyhalf for the Rebels - is an absolutely brilliant footballer. He is equally gifted playing fullback for the Wallabies.
At this stage of the season ahead of the June Test series, it’s a combination of managing players both mentally and physically.
Allister Coetzee is perfectly correct in resting his squad this week. Their defence has been tremendous, but they have done a helluva lot of tackling, which takes its toll. They have a very physical game this weekend, and it’s vital to keep the players fresh.
The tour has been very hard on the Lions - it’s clearly been a battle for them. However, they have a good opportunity against the Force this weekend. They have to try to win that game having shown good courage last week against the Reds.
They have had a plethora of injuries, but in Super Rugby you have to be able to cope with injuries, as it is an incredibly demanding, attritional tournament.
Alan Solomons was assistant coach to Nick Mallett when the Springboks went 17 Tests unbeaten. He is currently EP Kings’ Director of Rugby and is a consultant to the IRB.
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